Terri Petrey had been busy at work at Saint Joseph London the week of July 20 and her muscles ached. She does mammograms and ultrasounds as a radiology tech and it had been busy. She was also out of breath a lot that week, but it was 90 degrees outside so she chalked that symptom up to the heat.
“It just kept getting worse,” she recalled. “By Thursday, I was almost on the floor at work I was hurting so bad.”
Her daughter, a massage therapist, was working with her, but the massage didn’t seem to be helping. As Terri described for her daughter, Alyssa, what was going on, her daughter became concerned. She told Terri to see her doctor. Terri, who was scheduled to work that Friday, July 24, said she’d call while she was at work to make an appointment. But she got busy and put it off.
She was on call for ultrasounds and got called in Friday night. She performed the ultrasound and sat down to finish paperwork, when she couldn’t breathe and had no energy. She reached out to the emergency room physician, saying the pain she had feeling was happening on the spot. Her EKG came back normal, but the lab work – troponin levels were off the charts.
Within 10 or 15 minutes, she was taken upstairs where she was admitted. The next morning, the cardiologist, Harikrishnan D. Damodaran-Nair, MD, came in to see here and repeated lab work. The troponin levels were up again when he checked her lab work. He recommended a heart cath, which was completed within two to three hours.
Terri has worked at Saint Joseph London for 26 years, and she takes great pride in her work – even more so now that she has seen the care given from the patient side.
She admits that she’s not a good patient, but has learned a lesson from putting off the care she needed. “The doctor said you need to listen to your body if you feel something is odd or off,” she said. “I think I will pay more attention to myself now.”
She admits part of the hesitancy was not wanting to miss work – she knows patients have had to reschedule procedures due to COVID-19 restrictions earlier in the year and didn’t want to cause another delay if someone needed tests.
But, she said, “if we don’t take care of our own health, we can’t take care of our patients and that’s why I’m here.”
Her father died from a heart attack when he was 60, and she was a bit in denial that she could have heart problems. She recognizes, however, that signs of heart attack present differently in women than they do in men. “As a woman, you don’t think that the pain in your neck or shoulder or back could be caused by heart problems,” she said. “I didn’t have pain where my heart was. It just hurt all over.”
Now she knows, and offers this advice: “Don’t trivialize your pains. Don’t think this isn’t important, that this is just a little thing,” she said. “The smaller thing could be the most important thing to you. It could mean your life. Don’t feel like that somebody is going to think you’re overreacting for coming to get checked because you’re not.”
And she recognizes that one small change in that day could have cost her life.
“I could have gone back to sleep and not woken up,” she said. “God had his hands on me. He knew where I needed to be.”
For more information about heart care with CHI Saint Joseph Health and Saint Joseph London, visit www.chisaintjosephhealth/heart.